The (Bloomington, IL)
Miami (Native American tribe)
Tribe drops land suit
Tactic signals new strategy by legal team
MICHAEL FREIMANN and KURT ERICKSON Pantagraph staff
- In a surprise legal tactic, the Miami Indian Tribe of Oklahoma
has asked a federal court judge to dismiss its lawsuit against 15
Illinois landowners and the state of Illinois. The lawsuit, filed
last June, sought to reclaim land the Miami says was taken nearly
200 years ago.
District Judge J. Phil Gilbert granted the request Thursday. Under
federal court rules, the tribe may ask for the request as long as
the defendants have not filed a motion for summary judgment or answered
the initial lawsuit.
tribe's new Washington, D.C.-based attorney, Leslie Turner of Akin,
Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld LLP,
said the dismissal marks the beginning of a strategy by the tribe
in pursuing its claim on 2.6 million acres.
filed the motion to dismiss and made the request because we feel
there is a better way to resolve this suit than singling out these
15 landowners," Turner said.
felt the current approach put the focus too much on procedural issues
such as the state's right to intervene and we wanted to put the focus
of this case back on the tribe's claim of treaty title."
said he did not know when the claim would move forward or what approach
the tribe might now take.
are in the midst of discussions on how to proceed," Turner said. "There
are several options open to the tribe and the option we choose will
focus on the merits of this claim."
lawsuit is one of those options, but Turner would not say against
whom any lawsuit would be filed. He did say the 15 individual landowners
would not be part of a new lawsuit.
chief Floyd Leonard said the move was made to take the landowners
off the hook.
recently began a complete review of our legal strategy and concluded
that those 15 innocent people and their families should not be unfairly
singled out," Leonard said.
it filed its lawsuit, the tribe randomly chose the landowners - one
to represent each of the 15 Illinois counties covered under the claim.
General Jim Ryan welcomed news that the lawsuit had been dismissed.
The state in March was granted the right to intervene on behalf of
the landowners and in April asked Gilbert to dismiss the lawsuit
and force the tribe to take its claim up with the federal government.
are pleased we have defeated this troubling lawsuit," said Ryan.
state had girded for a long fight, with the legislature last month
passing a bill to help pay for the landowners' private legal expenses.
The bill made available $100,000 annually to cover those costs.
said that the dismissal does not mean that the issue is settled.
don't want this dismissal to be seen as a sign of weakness," Turner
said. "There is no question the tribe has a strong legal and
moral case here. The tribe is going to aggressively pursue its land
(c) 2001, Pantagraph Publishing Co.
Record Number: 0EC7F5E5E5F74663